70% of digital publishers will charge for online access

Almost three quarters of digital publishes, including those in the newspaper, magazine and television industries, intend to charge for online content, according to a survey released today.

The annual survey of members of the Association of Online Publishers, which includes Telegraph Media Group, Guardian Media Group, Condé Nast Digital, News International, IPC Media and a host of others, found that an increasing number were now looking to charge for online content.

The survey found that 70 per cent of AOP members will charge for content with just 30 per cent claiming they would never charge for content.

The picture was markedly different prior to the unprecedented downturn in advertising revenue now afflicting most media businesses. In 2007, the AOP found that 54 per cent of respondents said they had ‘no plans to charge for content’.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp, announced in May that all of his newspaper websites – including the Sun, the Times, The Sunday Times and the News of the World – would charge for content by next year.

The results of a Harris poll, published last week, found that this would not necessarily be as simple as throwing up a paywall. It suggested the vast majority of those accessing news online would seek free alternatives rather than pay to access newspaper websites. That poll found that only five per cent would be willing to pay.

One in three of those respondents to the AOP survey intending to charge for content said they would adopt a micro-payment model in the next 12 months with 45 per cent preferring a subscription model.

More than a quarter of those planning to charge for content said they would seek to create revenue through downloadable apps (26 per cent).

In the last week, the Guardian and the Spectator magazine have both announced plans to charge for assess to iPhone applications joining a host of other publishers in specifically targeting the Apple device as a new revenue stream.

The survey found that 26 per cent would charge for special reports as a way to make money online, while 16 per cent will put their archives behind a paywall. The same number is planning to charge for specific mobile content.

The BBC and Google were identified as threats to the fortune of online media by 50 per cent and 38 per cent of businesses respectively. However, those surveyed saw the economy (70 per cent) as more of a threat.

AOP members represent the broad range of newspaper and magazine publishing, TV and radio broadcasting and pure online media in the UK.

The survey revealed that publishers were encouraged by the prospects offered by mobile devices – 85 per cent of respondents identified the mobile web as the biggest opportunity for the industry.

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